Life Fitness shapes and powers its B2B customer experience with Zendesk
Life Fitness unifies its entire support operation with Zendesk Support to serve customers in 166 countries.
Despite our best intentions, most of us just don’t get enough exercise. Life Fitness is out to change that. The company’s mission is simple: inspiring healthier lives. It does this by supplying a range of fitness equipment to commercial health clubs, hotels, cruise ships, hospitals, schools, and the homes of everyday athletes around the world.
The company’s roots go back to 1968, when Dr. Keene Dimick invented the Lifecycle—the world’s first piece of electronic workout equipment. The bike ushered in a new era of innovation for the exercise industry, and by the ’70s, Life Fitness was born to bring the Lifecycle to the world.
When it was released, the Lifecycle was a technological marvel that cost as much as a Ford Mustang. The bike gave riders a challenging 12-minute interval workout consisting of four increasingly difficult hill repeats. Riders monitored their speed, calories burned, difficulty level, and workout time on an electronic display unlike anything the industry had ever seen. It even included an attachment for riders to clip to their ear in order to monitor their heart rate.
Today, Life Fitness continues to innovate across its multiple fitness brands. From state-of-the-art treadmills, elliptical machines, and indoor cycling bikes to precision-engineered weights and strength training equipment, Life Fitness is a proven pioneer in exercise technology.
The majority of Life Fitness’s business comes from health clubs around the world, which can sometimes require hundreds of pieces of equipment for a single location. To get a sense of the global health club industry’s complexity, consider that nearly 175 million people belong to one of the 200,000 gyms located around the globe, and the industry is expected to generate more than $87 billion this year. Those numbers get even bigger when you factor in that that 85 percent of hotels now include gyms and workout equipment as part of their amenities. That’s where Life Fitness comes in.
About 250,000 global fitness facilities, which include health clubs and vertical market installations, feature Life Fitness equipment; 135,000 of those are in the US alone. Life Fitness estimates that roughly 60 million exercisers around the world regularly use its equipment in over four billion workouts annually.
But designing, building, and supplying innovative products is just the beginning. Life Fitness is also obsessed with exceptional service and support to help customers keep their equipment working smoothly for years in the face of constant use from gym-goers.
“Staying on top is not just about having the best treadmill. It’s about having the best treadmill and being a true partner to our customers with incredible support and service,” said Olsen, director of customer care and support. “While a majority of our support calls are from our business-to-business accounts, these customers bring the same expectations for the quality and speed of support that they receive at home from the consumer-facing companies they deal with. That’s our bar.”
Given the global nature of Life Fitness’s operations, the complexity of the equipment it sells, its army of in-the-field technicians, and the decades worth of products that it supports, hitting that bar is challenging. Combine that with the fact that the company serves customers in 166 countries and acquired and integrated three companies in the past 18 months, and it’s clear that delivering great support can be quite a workout.
“Customers are increasingly expecting whoever they speak with will know everything about them and our relationship with them. And they’re less patient with departmental hand-offs and silos,” said Amanda Marx, director of commercial enablement and digital marketing.
Up until early 2018, Life Fitness used a Java-based email product for support that relied on Life Fitness continually updating its Java versioning. It didn’t integrate with the company’s enterprise resource planning software, had very limited reporting capabilities, and, most detrimentally, provided little conversational visibility. Agents often heard complaints from customers who would get multiple responses to the same inquiry.
Thankfully, four out of seven of Life Fitness’s regional offices were already using a solution that worked: Zendesk Support. In 2018, the company decided to move the rest of the regional teams over to Zendesk to standardize, optimize, and centralize operations. It started by running a pilot in AMER in March 2018 and then moved the rest of the teams over that September.
Cross-functional collaboration between Life Fitness’s support team of 65 agents and other departments immediately improved, leading to quicker and better resolutions. For example, if an agent receives a request for a treadmill replacement part, they can use Side Conversations to connect with other teams that can help. No more shuffling customers between departments, or digging up old emails to see what parts they’d ordered in the past. Zendesk Support also works seamlessly with the third party phone provider the company uses to manage its call center operations.
“Zendesk gives us confidence that agents can provide conversation continuity,” Olsen said. “Agents are able to pick up where they left off without having to read through a whole long string of emails.”
Life Fitness also uses Zendesk Explore to monitor the performance of its support teams, using the data and analytics to understand what’s working and where there’s room for improvement. It also implemented CSAT surveys for the first time with Zendesk. The results have been encouraging.
“In a little over a year since implementing Zendesk, our CSAT numbers have gone up from 85 percent to over 90 percent based on a 7.5 percent response rate,” Olsen said. “There’s still plenty of opportunity for us to do even better, but it’s clear that we’re doing something right.”
Life Fitness implemented Zendesk Chat to its suite of support channels in August 2019, enabling agents to instantly connect with customers in real time, further matching the speed and personalized support that consumer-facing companies deliver and its customers have come to expect. During the first week, its team completed 200 chat sessions and earned a 92.5% customer satisfaction score.
As Life Fitness continues to lead the industry with innovative equipment, Olsen, Marx and the support team will continue to innovate with the company’s customer support experience.
“Providing new and different ways for our customers to access support through products like Zendesk will continue to be a big game changer for us,” Olsen said.
“We had no good way to keep conversations together, to keep one agent managing a conversation with a customer. So we had regular feedback from our customers saying, ‘Well, I’ve heard from five different people on the same topic.’ Zendesk has gone a long way to help us with that.”
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